Getting our sealegs back
S/V Learnativity, voyage to Fiji
Thursday, May 14th, 6pm
Position 09.08S 178.59E Wind 18-20SE, course 195, boat speed 6 knots
You can follow our progress on this tracking map: http://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Learnativity
We asked for wind, and we got wind!
After a relaxing three days at anchor in the lagoon at Funafuti, we awoke this morning to winds in the 20-25 knot range. It’s a bit more than ideal, and more than the forecast was calling for, but neither of us suggested waiting another day. We were ready to leave.
That’s not to say our short stay in Tuvalu wasn’t great. It was. Monday when we arrived, there was no wind and once we got the anchor down, there was no air moving. It was hot! We spent much of the rest of that afternoon in the water trying to keep cool.
Tuesday, we launched the dinghy and went ashore to visit the small town. The people in Tuvalu are Polynesians and it was a big change after a year in the Marshalls where the people are Micronesians. There were lots more flowers everywhere around people’s houses, and the place was clean and tidy. Many of the homes had tin roofs with gingerbread designs more like one sees in the Caribbean. And the streets were filled with people buzzing about on motorbikes. Many of the men and nearly all of the women wear skirts, so there were lots of smiling women sitting side saddle on the back of a motorbike.
The dinghy dock is right in front of the Parliament building, so we went inside and visited the Customs office. The lady told us we needed to go down to the commercial wharf to see the customs officers there. She told us we would do all our clearance down there. But before taking the dinghy trip the half mile down to the wharf, we had to wait to see the big event. The town on this atoll has a long runway right through the middle of it. On one side is the Parliament building, hotel, the two banks, and a few restaurants, homes, and small shops. On the other side of the runway are more homes, the weather station, the agricultural station and the big dishes for the telecoms. The entire settlement is bisected by this asphalt runway that was built during the Second World War. There were pigs, people and motorbikes crossing the runway when suddenly this WWII air raid siren went off. That was the first warning. The people stopped walking on the runway, the pigs were cleared, and a couple of fellows in flipflops pushed a pair of baggage trolleys out of the building with the hand-painted sign that read Funafuti International Airport. An antiquated red fire truck pulled out with his siren blaring and he rolled to the end of the runway. Overhead, the big prop plane buzzed the town as he circled around to make his approach. The air raid siren went off again, and the plane landed and lumbered in a great cloud of dust to the very end of the runway. He used every inch. He turned around, rolled back to the front of the “airport” and the back door opened and the steps descended. The twice weekly flight had arrived, and motorbikes were right back to crossing the runway and the pigs were back to snuffling the asphalt.
We decided we couldn’t take the excitement of staying around for the take-off, so we got in the dinghy and buzzed down to the wharf where we sat under the Customs officers’ wheezing air conditioner while Wayne filled out the paperwork. When we inquired about immigration, we were told that the officer had just left and we needed to go back to the Parliament building. This is so typical of the clearing in- clearing out dance.
Once all the paperwork was complete, we treated ourselves to lunch at the hotel’s little restaurant. Eventually we were joined by the crews of the other two cruising boats, and we had a very nice chat exchanging stories that were peppered with place names like Gibralter, New Caledonia, Jost Van Dyke, and New Zealand. After lunch, we needed a good walk and we visited the local “supermarket,” which was a dark hot store with canned goods, school supplies, a few building supplies, and a freezer full of frozen meat. For fresh food there were some potatoes and onions and a few bruised pears. There had been no supply ship for several weeks. Wednesday, we returned to town and had lunch ashore once again. Good companionship and it gave Wayne the chance to do the reverse dance with the officials and get us cleared out. And so it is that we are now underway again beating our way to weather, trying not to lose too much easting. We want to clear in to Fiji in Savusavu, but we’re not sure the weather is going to cooperate. We may wind up back in Rotuma if the wind angle doesn’t turn more to the east. It’s a fairly fast, but bumpy ride, and our puppy dogs are struggling to find a place they can be comfortable. The cockpit is dry, though, so I am happy as long as I can wedge myself into a corner somewhere. It is time for me to go try to whip up something for dinner on this bouncing, slamming, heeled over boat. Thank goodness I never suffer from seasickness. Fair winds! Christine